October 21, 2011



Fired CEOs get gilded goodbyes
by Jim Hightower


In these times of nationwide job insecurity, with five applicants lined up for every job opening, CEOs warn workers that they'd better perform or else. Or else they'll be unceremoniously booted out the door.

But what happens when the bosses themselves fail to perform? Well, they, too, are shown the door. But rather than getting a swift kick in the tush, they're being given little golden kisses to soothe the pain of their failures. Actually, the kisses are not so little.

For example, when Burger King's board ousted its CEO in April for years of underperforming, his care package included a $20 million severance. That was on top of $29 million more in pension, deferred bonuses, and stock payments. Likewise, Massey Energy, the reckless mining giant that killed 29 coal miners last year and now faces charges of deliberately disregarding safety rules, handed its chief $34 million as a fond farewell for his ugly performance when he departed in June.

Then there's Hewlett-Packard, which supposedly is in the business of making computers, but seems to specialize in making outlandish payouts to failed CEOs. In 2007, Carly Firoina was sent packing with a $21 million severance; then her successor got $12 million to leave last year; and, this September his successor, Leo Apotheker, departed too, after only 11 months on the job. Apotheker's pay-for-failure totaled $13.2 million, including — get this — a $2.4 million bonus! Plus, HP is paying to relocate Leo to Europe and to cover the $300,000 loss he took on the sale of his house.

Getting fired has never been so sweet — and shareholders are getting a tad miffed at seeing so much of their money going out the door in these gilded goodbyes. For more information, go to www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/capital.

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Copyright 2010 by Jim Hightower & Associates
Contact Laura Ehrlich (laura@jimhightower.com) for more information.